Is your Child (or spouse) Addicted to Video Games?

Here’s a parental kick-in-the-gut from Douglas Gentile, Iowa State University assistant professor of psychology :

“The national prevalence of pathological play among youth gamers, and it is almost 1 in 10… What we mean by pathological use is that something someone is doing — in this case, playing video games — is damaging to their functioning… It’s not simply doing it a lot. It has to harm functioning in multiple ways.”

And, if you’re a parent of a game-playing 17 or 18 year old getting ready to pack-up and head off to college, you just might want to run out to the local Barnes & Noble or Borders, quickly read Ryan Van Cleave’s Unplugged: My Journey Into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction (Health Communications, Inc., 2010).

In a national Harris Poll survey of 1,178 Americans (ages 8-18), Gentile found nearly one in ten to be “pathological players” according to standards established for pathological gambling – causing family, social, school or psychological damage because of their video game playing habits. Gamers were classified as “pathological” if they exhibited at least six of the eleven criteria in the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Pathological gamers played video games 24 hours a week – about twice as much as non-pathological gamers; were more likely to have video game systems in their bedrooms; reported having more trouble paying attention in school, received poorer grades in school, had more health problems, were more likely to report that they feel “addicted,” and even stole to support their habit. Pathological gamers were also twice as likely to have been diagnosed with attention problems – Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

If you’re already saying, “Nah, not me” or “Not my kid,” read Unplugged.

Because suicide is highly correlated with the desperation stage of gull-blown gambling addiction, it is no small coincidence that Unplugged opens with Van Cleave’s sort-of-accidental almost suicide and then traces the development of an addiction that brought him to the Arlington Memorial Bridge on December 31, 2007.

With a PhD in American Literature and a background as a well-published writer and poet, Van Cleave’s memoir presents him as a quite full-of-himself combination scallywag, scamp and all-out-gaming addict. Despite his education, teaching positions in major universities that other would-be writing professors would cut off their left arms for, marriage and children, he was – and still is – a full-out addict to the game World of Warcraft (WoW) albeit in recovery.

Parents and spouses of children, teens and adults whose lives are controlled by the desire/need to be at their keyboard day and night in order not to lose their ephemeral gaming wins would do well to read Unplugged.

Despite two years out of WoW when Unplugged was written and published, Van Cleave makes it clear that the game is designed to not just to draw in the player but to keep him/her trapped forever – unlike earlier computer based games WoW and other MMOGs – massive multiplayer online games – and MMORPG – massive multiplayer online role-playing games – are impossible to win and never end. While providing a sense of “community” or “team” to “guild” members, they also trap players with the sense that the longer he is away from his screen and keyboard the more action he is missing and his community might move on without him – leaving him alone in the hostile world of the game and without the social community that has come to replace family and friends.

In addition, addicted gamers can find themselves trapped in a cycle of ever increasing costs – not just the monthly subscriber fees but trinkets and tchotchkes but imaginary weapons, imaginary money and imaginary powers. Surprisingly (for the non-gamer) it’s just as possible for a gamer to spend himself into debt and bankruptcy as it is for a chronic gambler in Las Vegas.

The Brain Training Centers of Florida utilizes the revolutionary new technology to help relieve adults and children of their addictions.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Posted in: ADD (ADHD), Addiction

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